It’s great to be creative. In fact, it is human nature is to create… And recreate. There are, however, times when it is not appropriate. An example of this is messing around with an established brand – or a non-established brand that deserves a chance to build brand recognition and equity.

I specifically remember an intern at our firm coming in having redesigned the Starbucks logo. True, it was just a school assignment to redesign a logo in need of help. But that logo doesn’t need any help. While this is an innocent example, it’s not uncommon for employees to inadvertently tarnish their company brand without a brand standards guide, or style guide.

Coke, Verizon, Dell, and Apple all have very recognizable brands. Whether you like them or not, their brands are instantly recognizable – household names. All of these well-established brands have brand standards guidelines that outline colors, imagery, logo usage, typography and layout.

A brand standards guide shows employees and vendors a like the do’s and don’ts of your brand.

Brand standards are necessary regardless of company size, but typically the large corporations follow them very strictly with no deviation. Small companies are not always as strict… But they should be.

Why no deviation?

Let’s think about it. If you are Verizon and spend millions on your branding, do you want an employee, or an outside vendor to use your logo incorrectly and dilute the brand? No, you don’t! The scalability of a brand can be especially challenging for large global companies with thousands of employees and vendors. That’s why following a brand standards guide without deviation is of the utmost importance.

Every marketing communication you create for your company strengthens or weakens your brand.

For smaller firms, a brand standards guide can be a page or two… Anything is better than nothing. For larger companies, it often resembles a book. It can be in both digital (online) and in print form.

Below are examples of The American Red Cross and Apple brand standards guide at a glance:
For Channel Affiliates and Apple-Certified Individuals

In conclusion, when doing any kind of branding work, a standards guide is a MUST. This should come on the heels of a rebranding and for newly created brands. What happens if the company you work for doesn’t have a brand standards guide? I would encourage them to create a guide either internally via their marketing department, or with help from an outside agency, or design firm.

The consequences of not having a standards guide can be seen here:

Hey, I redesigned the Apple logo!

Need I say more???